Q: I am dating a man with ADHD. Things are going well, but after having been through a bad marriage with a husband who had serious unresolved problems I'm leery of entering another marriage with someone with a disorder. Do you know where I can find some information on understanding and living with ADD/ADHD? I think knowledge will help resolve my fears and concerns. Thanks Jonathan, for all of your help—it is such a blessing to me!
A: Many of you know I'm full-out ADHD myself. It's not a serious problem when it's treated knowledgeably and skillfully. In fact, as I've told many, I wouldn't trade my ADHD brain for anything, as it has way too many upsides (for me at least). As is true for any problem in life the biggest problems come from stigma, ignorance, lack of training and skill development. And therein, of course, also lies the solution to most of life's problems: Gain knowledge and gain skills.
There's no need for me to write a full article on this topic when there are many excellent articles already online that I would like to recommend to you:
- ADHD and Marriage: Six Steps to Nurturing A True Partnership
By Melissa Orlov
- Married to ADHD: Relationship Advice for You and Your Spouse
By Laura Flynn McCarthy
- Feeling Ignored - The Non-ADHD Spouse Dilemma
By Melissa Orlov
- ADHD’s Impact on Relationships: 10 Tips to Help
By Margarita Tartakovsky
here is also an excellent book called The ADHD Effect on Marriage: Understand and Rebuild Your Relationship in Six Steps, by Melissa Orlov (same author as two of the articles I listed above).
As you read the above articles you'll notice that most of the problems occurred when the ADHD was:
- Untreated; and
- The couple's poor interaction patterns had gone on like this unchecked for years.
The solutions the articles highlight, and with which I concur, talk about are where BOTH partners
- Know what they are dealing with;
- Know how to deal with it (i.e., get educated and learn skills); and
- Get counseling early, such as in your case where we've discussed pre-marital counseling (and even pre-pre-marital, meaning we're not even engaged yet, just serious) as a non-optional aspect of the "Attract the Best™" work I do with singles. Remember, people who won't do relationship counseling are sending up a BIG red flag that essentially says, "I'm showing you my pattern that I won't recognize or deal with problems when they are small so I'll likely do just the same when the problems are big. I'm also not interested in gaining knowledge or self or relationship improvement."
The bottom line is ADHD is not the main problem. It's how the two of you interact with the problem. Are you both willing to get educated, learn skills, be open to new ideas and different ways of relating? If so, then no problem. If not, then why bother?